About 60 Kendra Scott employees helped build four playhouses on the grounds of the Zach Theatre complex Thursday afternoon. The playhouses will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and to two families from Upbring, a charity that helps move children in foster care to more stable environments.
Building playhouses is a Habitat for Humanity program that provides groups or companies a volunteer opportunity, while supporting local nonprofit organizations.
Habitat for Humanity supplies the playhouse kits and supplies. For $2,500 a group can build one and decorate it during the course of an afternoon and then donate it to the charity, “It makes for a great way to give back,” said Phyllis Snodgrass, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity.
With Habitat for Humanity experts on hand, Kendra Scott employees divided into teams and raised the walls of the houses. They built furniture to go inside and painted and decorated each house. The doormats will all have the Kendra Scott name on them. Inside will be a moon and stars motif including glow-in-the-dark stars with the Kendra Scott theme “Go Beyond.” Employees all wore “Go Beyond” shirts.
Emily Sadler, who’s on the corporate events team at Kendra Scott was planning with her team how to do it. It wasn’t officially a competition between the teams, but they were noticing what the other teams were doing. “We want it to be fun,” she said of the house decor.
Laura Kahn, an IT project manager at Kendra Scott, said the day was exciting. She was nailing shingles to the roof of one of the playhouses. “They did explain it,” she said, “but we’re still learning.”
Habitat started the playhouse building program last year as it was struggling to find affordable land in the Austin area for its homes. The playhouse program is a way to keep volunteers engaged, find a new base of volunteers and fund raise, Snodgrass says. Last year groups built 30 playhouses for nonprofits. These are the first four homes of this year.
During the event, Kendra Scott also set up its color bar for all the employees to make jewelry that will be donated to the organizations. About once a month, Kendra Scott brings the color bar to Dell Children’s and other hospitals around the country for patients to make jewelry. Dell Children’s is one of 30 hospitals that now have the color bar coming to them.
The playhouse build event is part of Kendra Scott’s company philosophy that includes philanthropy as one of its pillars. It gives its employees two days off a year to give back to a local organization. To take a day of work away from the office and do something for organizations in Austin, “it’s an easy decision to make,” said Kendra Scott Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer Tom Nolan. “The city’s been so good to us.”
The company gives in other ways including 9,000 events last year in its 75 stores that give 20 percent of sales to local charities, as well as a buy-one-give-one program to give jewelry to breast cancer survivors, and the color bar program.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas will put its playhouse in its playground at the house near Dell Children’s Medical Center. For families who are staying at the house, “this is going to be a nice addition,” said Carolyn Schwarz, chief executive officer, especially for the siblings of the patient who is getting treatment. “For the siblings, it can be a really difficult time,” she said. Schwarz quoted a phrase that Kendra Scott, often uses to describe what her jewelry should do, “This is going to ‘surprise and delight’ so many kids.”
Armando Zambrano, director of annual giving at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas Foundation, also quoted Scott, who was not able to be at the build because of the flu, “These kids need a moment of happiness” she had told him when she first toured the hospital. “They need an escape from their reality,” he said. “They need a moment of joy.”